Church welcomes its special Muslim visitors on Christmas Eve

3101On Christmas Eve, churches all over the country will welcome into their midnight mass services people who rarely take part in acts of Christian worship but find candlelit carols irresistible.

In the pews of St Alban’s in North Harrow there will be a special group of visitors: about three dozen Muslims from a nearby mosque.

For the past 10 years, worshippers at the Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex have been attending midnight mass at St Alban’s as a way of meeting their neighbours and taking part in Christmas festivities.

“For us, attending midnight mass is a great chance to participate in an important part of Christmas celebrations and meet people from our local church, many of whom have become our friends,” said Miqdaad Versi, an executive committee member of SICM.

“Ten years ago, this was one of the first times we met, and now it has flourished into a much stronger and long-lasting relationship as we meet regularly, work together and organise joint events.”

The Christmas visits were initiated by young members of the mosque. The executive committee checked with the church that they would be welcome, and every year since up to 50 Muslims have attended the midnight service.

Versi said that most Muslims enjoyed Christmas celebrations and the focus on family. “There are differences in belief, of course, but in the Islamic faith Jesus is revered as a major prophet.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

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Interfaith encounter at a mosque

bait-ul-futuh_mosque_in_londonIt started with our own curiosity. Every year at my church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, we have a fall lecture series. A parade of speakers, panels, and dialogues explores what we take to be the most pressing issues of our time. For the last few years, with series themes such as “Who is my neighbor?” and “Reformation,” we’ve felt the need to include a Muslim perspective. The great thing about inviting a speaker from a different social location is that it can draw in people who share that identity, and so we started to find a number of Muslims coming not just to the lectures given by a Muslim but to the other lectures as well.

And so it was that an invitation came for me to return the favor. A mosque in South London asked me to come and speak. We had decided our fall series theme for this year would be “Encounter,” and we had asked the usual pageant of distinguished speakers to come to St. Martin’s. But this year there was also something different: an opportunity to go to a mosque to­gether and not just talk about an encounter but actually have one.

“It’s the mosque,” he replied.

“But it’s huge,” I gasped.

“Oh yes, it’s the largest mosque in Western Europe. They get 14,000 people here for Eid and several thousand every Friday.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

Thanksgiving provides opportunity to celebrate ‘collectively’

Screen-Shot-2018-11-14-at-11.26.28-AMInterfaith partnerships are emerging in nearly every community. The Treasure Coast isn’t behind in celebrating such religious pluralism.

Thanksgiving is one occasion to express this harmony. In the Community Church in Vero Beach, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus unite annually for a joint service. This year, the Faith Congregational Church in Port St. Lucie will also host a similar gathering.

One year, Sana Shareef, a St. Edwards High senior, joined me. She played “Amazing Grace” on her clarinet. Imagine a young Muslim girl, her head covered, playing a Christian hymn. Senior Minister, Rev. Bob Baggott, to this day recalls that moment.

“That wrapped the gathering in a beauty only music can,” he said. “That shared moment lifted our souls, calming our minds, believing in peace.”

The following year, Sana joined Rabbi Bruce Benson at the Temple Beth El Israel in Port St. Lucie. He fondly remembers: “The joy of adding her musical skills to my song I had written added more than just words could.”

In July 2018, Pew Research reported: “The U.S. remains a robustly religious country and the most devout of all the Western democracies. In fact, Americans pray more often, are more likely to attend weekly religious services and ascribe higher importance to faith in their lives than adults in other wealthy nations. For instance, more than half of American adults (55 percent) say they pray daily, compared with 25 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Australia and 6 percent in Great Britain.”

Our inter-religious cooperation makes America stronger and our nation a beacon to the world. Religion remains a potent force for good — or for political conflict. Community by community, we must decide which path we take. A resilient community, overcoming the divisive and charged politics of the day, manifests itself in many of our synagogues, churches and mosques.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TCPALM.COM

Muslim, Christian leaders share story of interfaith friendship

At the back of a banquet hall in New Hope Presbyterian Church beneath an illuminated stained-glass window, Dr. Bashar A. Shala brought his hands together in prayer, looked to the ceiling, spoke quietly and then knelt, bringing his head fully to the floor.

Shala recited in Arabic a verse from the Quran and then translated to a room of bowed heads. Pastor Steven Stone followed him with a Christian prayer, asking God to bless those gathered.

Shala, president of the Memphis Islamic Center in Tennesseee, and Stone, senior pastor of the Christian Heartstrong Church, also of Memphis, led the Castle Rock churchgoers in prayer during a lunchtime gathering following New Hope’s usual Oct. 14 service, then took questions from congregation members.

Both men have been awarded the Freedom of Worship Award from the Roosevelt Institute, the nonprofit partner of America’s first presidential library, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, and have been featured in national media outlets. Their mission, they said, is to encourage people throughout the U.S. to see past cultural and religious differences, to foster more curiosity between groups and diminish fear within people hesitant to build such relationships.

It’s a lesson they’ve preached for years through their own story of friendship.

Becoming, and loving, thy neighbor

Stone, Shala and their respective organizations built a national platform starting roughly nine years ago, as their relationship was first forming.

It began when Stone read a local media report about a group of Muslims who had purchased land to build an Islamic center across the street from his church, which he founded and has pastored for nearly 20 years.

Stone’s first reaction was rooted in fear and ignorance, he said. He didn’t know a single Muslim. He didn’t know if he should be concerned about another religious group so close by. So, he prayed.

Shala was among a committee and board searching for land to build a home for the Muslim community in Memphis — a place where they could worship and socialize.

“It was a post-9/11 world,” Shala said. “There were some struggles.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM HIGHLAND RANCH HERALD 

Christians, Muslims and Hindus together celebrate Diwali, the ‘festival of lights’

PAKISTAN_-_1108_-_Diwali_2Some 50 Christian, Muslim and Hindu activists took part in the event (photos), around oil lamps, opened with a prayer recited by a pandit (Hindu priest).

One of the participants was Aroon Kumar, a 24-year-old university student and resident in the capital of Punjab. The former coordinator of the Pakistani Hindu Council told AsiaNews that “the event is slowly becoming a cultural event in Pakistan, a country with an overwhelming Islamic majority”.

In light of the tensions in the country over Islamist protests against Asia Bibi’s acquittal, the young man suggests that “the city administration should sponsor this holiday,” which “can help society strengthen the values ​​of the family”.

For Rawadari Tehreek chairman Samson Salamat, the interfaith event was deliberately kept low key. “We did not advertise it on social media because our hearts are sad,” he said. “In recent riots, people suffered serious losses.”

Speaking about the unrest cause by radicals, Salamat stressed that “what happened on the streets across Pakistan is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Someone is using religion to incite violence. The ‘festival of lights’ represents hope, as well as an opportunity to bring together people from all religions.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

After Pittsburgh, the interfaith response sends message of solidarity across the religious divide

Thousands gathered for an interfaith prayer vigil at Pittsburgh’s Sixth Presbyterian Church in the hours following the mass shooting at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue, packing the pews with mourners from different congregations across the community.

Reverend Vincent Kolb, a pastor at Sixth Presbyterian, began the service by recalling the advice of the church’s former worshipper Fred “Mister” Rogers and said “it is in that spirit of neighborliness that we gather here tonight to be allies to our Jewish neighbors who have been victimized and traumatized by this tragedy,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Marylynne Pitz and Peter Smith reported.

Interfaith voices have been some of the loudest expressing solidarity for the victims of the shooting that left 11 dead on Saturday — the worst attack on worshipping Jews in American history according to the director of the American Jewish Archives. In addition to the vigil held at Sixth Presbyterian, interfaith services are being held across the country in the coming days.

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CAN A MUSLIM AND A CHRISTIAN PRAY TOGETHER?

324(note:  this piece was written in 2014.  As such it is not a “news” item.  However, its subject matter is timeless)

Can a Muslim and a Christian pray together? This is an important question that one has to deal with in his or her mission of Christian/Muslim relations. In the pluralistic world, one cannot completely avoid any level of participation in the worship of the Other. The immediate danger that many Catholic theologians apprehend in such participation is the danger of syncretism. This question becomes theologically nuanced when it has to deal with Christians and Muslims praying together. This article suggests that it is not only possible that Christians and Muslims can pray to one God together, but also, that the aforesaid praying together is essential and should be encouraged.

Christians and Muslims Believe in one God

Christians and Muslims should recognize that, first of all, they worship but one God. They address their prayers to one God in whom both Christians and Muslims place their faith and commit themselves to bend their own wills to the will of the one and the only God. Pope Paul VI affirmed that Muslims are true adorers of the one one God when he wrote: “Then to adorers of God, according to the conception of monotheism, the Muslim religion, especially, is deserving of our admiration for all that is true and good in its . . . worship of God” (Ecclesiam Suam 106).

The recognition of differences is an expression of mutual respect

Nevertheless, one should not forget the considerable differences between the Christian and Muslim confession of God’s unity. The unity of God as a common element between Christians and Muslims needs to be approached carefully for, when Christians talk about God, they talk about one who, “is known and worshiped as Father, Son and Spirit.” Muslims do not accept this Trinitarian understanding of God. Accordingly, the fundamental differences in their understanding of the Godhead should be recognized for the recognition of differences is an expression of mutual respect.

FULL ARTICLE FROM JESUIT.ORG (UK)